Mendocino County RCD Newsletter

June 2023

We hope you had a lovely Father's Day!

In This Issue:

Our GrizzlyCorps fellow, Jessica Reid, out on a snorkel survey with Trout Unlimited

Program Highlight: Water

  • Russian River Water Forum
  • Snorkel Surveys
  • Large Woody Debris

Soil, Forestry, and Land Programs:

  • Farm-to-School Program
  • North Bay Forest Improvement Program Batch 5
  • Willits Project Update
  • MCRCD hello's and goodbyes

MCRCD Joins the Russian River Water Forum to Solve Urgent Regional Water Supply Issues

The Russian River Water Forum (RRWF) was recently formed to identify water-supply resiliency solutions in response to PG&E’s planned decommissioning of the Potter Valley Project (the infrastructure which has diverted water from the Eel River for Russian River water users for decades). Identified solutions will protect Tribal interests and support the stewardship of fisheries, water quality, and recreation in both the Russian River and Eel River basins. More broadly, the RRWF is facilitating ongoing regional collaboration on water supply and watershed restoration issues in both basins. The RRWF is a collaborative effort initiated by Sonoma Water with funding from the California Department of Water Resources.

RRWF Planning Group representative and MCRCD board member Cathy Monroe brings our voice to the table

The RRWF is propelled by a Planning Group of regional partners representing a cross-section of interests in Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Humboldt Counties. The MCRCD is an active participant in the RRWF, with representatives assigned to the Planning Group, and staff providing technical advice to ensure science-based decision-making in this process. We will provide information and resources for long term water supply sustainability including implementing water use efficiencies, increased water storage, soil health management, cooperative water sharing, rainwater catchment, and use of alternative water sources. As a non-regulatory and neutral party, the goal of MCRCD is to ensure that every interest is recognized and respected in this critical endeavor.

This shows the 140 people who participated in the first meeting of the RRWF in May. The Planning Group meets monthly. To find out more information about the RRWF click the link below!

Click here to visit the RRWF website

Snorkel Surveys in the Navarro Watershed and Outlet Creek Basin

Springtime in the salmon world means prime time for snorkel surveys. This time of year, fish hatched over the winter months (known as “Young of the Year” or simply “YOY”) are just large enough to begin identifying to the species level – about 1 ½ inches long. Snorkel surveys are commonly used to monitor salmonid populations because the fish are easily spotted in their clear water habitat and it’s a minimally invasive sampling technique. These surveys help to answer questions like – are coho salmon present in Davis Creek? How common are steelhead compared to coho salmon in Fynn Creek? What other aquatic species are present in Ryan Creek?

A snorkel survey may not answer all these questions completely, but they provide insights that inform the work of land managers and environmental planners who make important decisions about these riparian habitats.

Photos show Troy Cameron performing a snorkel survey at Davis Creek

Here at Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, we partner with Trout Unlimited (TU) to monitor conditions in two watersheds: the Navarro River watershed, and the Outlet Creek basin. In addition to their on-going summer monitoring of streamflow conditions, this spring, TU Fisheries Biologist, Troy Cameron, conducted snorkel surveys in 7 important creeks in these two watersheds. Preliminary observations emphasized the urgency surrounding salmonid conservation efforts – only 1 of the 7 creeks hosted significant populations of the endangered species Coho Salmon. Troy documented a few coho YOY and smolts (juvenile salmon preparing to out-migrate to the ocean) in other locations in the Navarro but did not observe any in the Outlet Creek Basin. He did find steelhead in varying densities, rough skinned newts, many three spined stickle back, and two chinook salmon hanging out in Outlet Creek.

Salmon are a keystone species here on the North Coast but they’re facing sever threats to their long-term survival due to loss of slow water habitat during winter storms, poor water quality, and low stream flow in the summer. Significant investments are being made throughout California to protect and restore these essential species. You can learn more about MCRCD’s work in the Navarro River watershed at the link below.  

For more information click here!

Navarro Watershed Large Woody Debris Project

The MCRCD is excited to see how well some of the large wood structures installed in the Fall of 2020 in Lower Mill Creek in the Navorra Watershed performed after high flows from this past winter. The previous years of low rain fall and lack of big storms did not allow for the logs to “do” what they were designed to do at their optimum. After this years’ rains there is now some beautiful complexity in Lower and Middle Mill Creek, with small wood wracking up on the logs, gravels being sorted to form pools and gravel bars, and lots of nooks and crannies for fish to hang out in. This section of creek was pretty homogenous previous to the wood installment and looked similar to a bowling alley with little high value and suitable habitat available for the fish to spawn and for the young of the year (Y0Y) to hang out. Juvenile fish need cool, clear, well oxygenated water, as well as protection from predators to thrive.

This was a photo taken in June of Troy Cameron conducting a snorkel survey to see which fish and other aquatic species are present and an estimate their numbers. There were good numbers of Steelhead in the pools in Lower Mill Creek and several coho salmon smolts (life stage where they are heading out of the creek system to the estuary and then on to the Ocean) were observed. The Photo was taken by Linda MacElwee. 

This project is one of the Navarro Flow Enhancement Partnership’s between MCRCD, The Nature Conservancy and Trout Unlimited. Funding is provided by the Wildlife Conservation Board.

Soil Team's Participation in CDFA’s Farm-to-School Incubator Program

The Soil Team assisted North Coast Opportunities in CDFA’s Farm-to-School Incubator Program by facilitating Farm-to-School visits at Fort Bragg Middle School, Laytonville High School, and Mendocino College. This program began October 2021 and ended last month. During that period, our soil team taught ~250 students through a total of 54 classroom visits. Two of these visits included an opportunity for students to learn from Irene’s Garden, which is a locally owned farm that produces large amounts of garlic and other veggies in a sustainable crop rotation.

To read more about Jessica Reid's experience during these classroom visits, click the link below

Click here to read "Teaching Makes Us Better at Our Jobs"

1st Photo: Students and staff wading into Ten mile Creek with binoculars while searching for critters. 

2nd Photo: Irene encouraging a student to pull garlic and pass it around for a very tasty but also stinky taste test

North Bay Forest Improvement Program (NBFIP)

Batch 5

In the 5th NBFIP Batch, 10 Mendocino County landowners submitted applications, out of which 7 were accepted. This represents approximately 175 acres of land that will undergo treatment to enhance forest health and reduce fire hazards. Several accepted landowners either formed partnerships with neighbors or already had existing Forest management Plans. Funding is accessible to support landowners in covering the costs associated with the development of forest management plans.

Pictured to the right is our former Forest Project Manager, Bryce Hutchins, climbing a 8' DBH oak tree on a landowners NBFIP project site

To learn more about the NBFIP click here

Willits Mitigation Lands News

The Willits team has finished the annual springtime pre-graze monitoring and worked tirelessly to prepare the pasture and update plumbing &infrastructure to accommodate cattle for the summer after a winter of persistent inundation. Hotwire is used in our adaptive management of invasive Harding grass (Phalaris aquatica). It helps to concentrate the cattle in order to have a greater effect on the pasture.

Pictured to the left is a hot wire set up.


Project Interpreter, Marisela de Santa Anna, and her team of volunteers have just finished the annual bird survey on the project. Some highlights include Grasshopper Sparrows, Lazuli Buntings, and an American Bittern!

Pictured to the right is a Grasshopper Sparrow singing.

Staff Updates

Denise Woods

Water Resources Project Manager

Denise is excited to focus on sustainable water supplies, water quality improvements, invasive species monitoring, and avian surveys. She has a master’s degree in zoology (ornithology) from Oklahoma State University and a bachelor’s degree in biology from University of California Los Angeles. Prior to joining the MCRCD, she provided consulting services through Woods Biological Research & Services which specialized in resource conservation planning, technical writing, and project facilitation. She co-authored the North Coast Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (NCRP, 2014) and was the editor of the Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference from 2018-2022. She moved from Alaska to Mendocino County (Hopland) in 2009.

Adam Coleman

Forestry Project Manager

Adam has multi-disciplinary background in the management of forestry, agricultural and urban resources. He has more than 10 years of experience performing field research and qualitative and quantitative analyses in water quality, soil fertility, botanical surveys, forest measurements and other habitat studies. Adam joined the MCRCD in 2023 as a Forestry Project Manager, where he focuses on helping local landowners with projects that develop resilient forests and reduce wildfire risk.

Deborah Stranger Edelman

Former Water Program Manager

Deborah was our Water Program Manager for MCRCD with a focus on groundwater management, stormwater pollution prevention, water conservation, and watershed education. She developed the Watershed Best Management Practices for Cannabis Growers and Rural Gardeners, the first peer-reviewed watershed BMP guide developed by a natural resource agency in California specifically for cannabis growers. She worked closely with the Ukiah Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency and the Mendocino County Drought Task Force, as well as with Mendocino County Tribes to assist with drought and water resiliency. She has a master’s degree in ecology and environmental policy analysis from UC Davis. Prior to joining MCRCD, she worked for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, where she managed the Oakwood Valley creek restoration project, and the University of California Cooperative Extension, where she helped develop the California Naturalist Program. She is a co-author of The California Naturalist Handbook (UC Press, 2013).

We appreciate the decades of work that Deborah dedicated to the MCRCD to steward wild and working landscapes within Mendocino County. We wish her the best of luck in her next chapter of life!

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